Sunday, June 10, 2007

Chicken Little

The Book: Chicken Little. Absolute nonfiction!

Translated rom Katle Kanye's Blog, with permission.

From the children's story, Chicken Little, which is a great source of yires shemeyim, we learn the extent that a small chicken has a fear of heavens. The Chicken had heard from m'kiblem that the world is coming to an end, so she rushed to tell whoever wanted to hear about it, that we have to run into the batei m'drushim immediately to say all of tehillim and form shmiras halashon seminars, in order to saved from the chevlei moshiach, or maybe not to discourage moshiach's arrival god forbid!

So the chicken told the hen while they were both waiting to put their children onto the school bus. The hen pulled her punzello zipper up, pulled the turban down over her eyes and said to the chick "Luz es far mir", which called for an evening of hissarirus. Later, waiting to pay at the grocery store, the hen told the froe duck, who, expecting in her eighth month, held one hand behind her back and the other in her pocket and exclaimed "What? And you havunt told anyone about this?! My husbund knows a very good mekibul. He has his cell."

The duck repeated it all to the goose at the doctor's waiting room. The goose gasped "I don't bulieve ut! We're going to Europe next week, for my sister's einike'ls chasunah. When is this happuning?!" And while having her wig combed the rooster found out and told the sheitle-macher that it's all happening because some young girls are not shaving. "You yourself told me so" the rooster said, to which the sheitle-macher replied "keep your head steady!"

If a chicken, a hen, a duck, a goose and a rooster go out for yiddishkeit's sake, who better to find than Reb Fox? "Avadah, veibelech" the fox said in his throaty voice "come in. The Rebbetzin is just not home right now, but sit down and keep the door open a bit. You should leave behind a few dollars for Hachnasas Kallah – that'd be very, very valuable to the ribonosheloilem – in the zechus of the nashim tsidkonias… yeah, yeah… of course… it isn't even a question!" And he warmly led the ladies out.

On the way out the rebbetzin came in, and learning of what had just happened she turned to the chicken and said "Your synthetic wig is scratching at your ears so it occurs to you that something is falling on your head. You fell on your head! Go put on a shpitzel!"

And they all lived happily ever after…

[NOTE: Aside from his great pen and humor, Katle Kanye has a keen understanding of the chicken society, which makes his writings all the more extraordinary. Since he writes in Yiddish I thought it would be helpful to make his work available to a wider audience. Here is a straw of the haystack, to feed the literary hunger.]

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Survival in Auschwitz

The Book: Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. Nonfiction.

Guest review by Chaim Chusid.

For a man to utter the words "Auschwitz was my true University" means that the books he writes and the messages he portrays are not to be taken lightly.

Primo Levi was an Italian Jew, to whom Jewishness really had no great meaning. He later said that he was "shocked into confronting his Jewishness by the wild course of events that allowed the Holocaust to occur."

There is not a lot I can say about his book. It is written in the same style as one would write a diary. The pure and raw emotion of the writer shines through every single page.

To read this book is to experience the darkest of night through the eyes of an author with incisive and true intellect, an absolute portrayal of what occurred in the simplest of terms during the darkest of times.

[NOTE by Shpitz: but for some Anne Frank excerpts, I have yet to read a Holocaust memoir. These books dripping of raw bloody pain are just cuts through the heart of readers so vividly familiar with its truth. They put you, especially when you're in a state of valuable possessions of life - namely husband and children - in an agonizing state of fear. Is it selfish to resign to knowing just about a grandchild of Holocaust survivors typically know (I dare say a lot) or is it insensitive to cushion oneself from a terrible era that's still so sore we can see it on our grandparent's limbs?]

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Thursday, June 7, 2007


The Book: Saturday by Ian McEwan; Novel

'Saturday' follows Dr. Henry Perowne, a doctor in England, on the day off of his busy workweek through a twenty four hour period of captivating events. The author walks through the proceedings in slow motion, reflecting in incredible tones, not only the development of the plot, but Perowne's thoughts, observations and inner deliberations in response to those occurrences. This projected ordinary off-day had turned extraordinary when Perowne encountered violence on the road and later at home, but it was the depiction of varying perspectives on the many issues that made the book so extraordinary.


This contemporary novel brushes on many active world issues, all worthy of discussion. The backdrop is a major anti-war demonstration in London while America is considering sending its troops to Iraq. Ironically, the demonstration might as well still be going on today. Going back in time, tracking back to a day we did or did not have evidence of WMD, the book begged to question the leadership of the free world. In it, Dr. Strauss, an American born doctor of Perowne's team says "They hate your prime minister. But oh, do they loath my president". I wondered if the smug attitude towards Americans in general and the leadership in particular might be and effect of a free world that provides the opportunity and encouragement to do so. Or are we Americans indeed a town of buffoons?


I was most fascinated by the tug-n-pull between the profession of Neurosurgery and the thoughts of philosophy. While standing over the bed of a patient whose scalp is cut open and bones moved aside, we see two images of that same individual. The mortal, helpless, stiff figure of bones lying in his own blood, and the intricate, terrifying and intense person we know him to be.

The human being. We're mere matter but, oh, we matter.



Henry's mother, at the 'present' time in a nursing home while dementia reduces her basic abilities, is described as a woman that was an ideal 'yenta' in her prime. Neighborly gossip and overdone housework were the limits of her interests. From the brief picture painted, Mrs. Lilian Perowne resembles everything I know in our female society today. However, the protagonist now 'matures' his perception of women like his mother:

"He recognized his mother's themes in nineteenth-century novels. There was nothing small-minded about her interests. Jane Austen and George Eliot shared them too. Lilian Perowne wasn't stupid or trivial, her life wasn't unfortunate and he had no business as a young man being condescending towards her."

I wouldn't say a woman that is limited to very unintelligible activities is stupid or trivial. Nonetheless, I do think that neither Jane Austen nor George Eliot change the fact that women do not exercise their capacity when going through life in unchallenging, repetitive activities. From what I gather Jane Austen has a talent for writing in very colorful characters. Her human understanding is what makes her books outstanding, and the material settings just help polarize the character diversity. But as artistic as a novelist may portray it this limited lifestyle does not require one to employ much of their uniqueness, and thus, it's all actually just pretty darn dull.

I cannot suggest that women like Mrs. Perowne are less happy for how they live. It actually appears to the contrary, that for many hard work and simplicity is satisfying, but I don't hold unchallenging routines in high regard either. Is encouraging this lifestyle an unjust to those that don't know that there is more to it, or is Perowne right, it is the yentas that there is more to - beyond their shallow impression?


Favorite Line: "The trick in human success and domination is to be selective in your mercies"

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